Technology, it turns out, is one of the best things that has ever happened to vintage clothing.
“One good thing about the era we are in, there isn’t anything you can’t look up,” said Carol Squires, owner of The Little Jewel in downtown Modesto. That means you can Google a name on a label in a blouse or a mark on a piece of jewelry to help determine its story. Of course, that also assumes that someone hasn’t sewn a vintage label into a 21st century dress.
Labels are just the start – according to the website vintagefashionguild.org, not all vintage clothing will have labels in it. The website also shares the interesting bit of history that labels started in the 1800s, “when dressmaking departments were active.”
The make of the garment also can offer clues, both Squires and the website said. “Look at this beading,” Squires said, holding out a lacy dress. “It’s all handmade.”
Vintage pieces may have boned bodices, hand-sewn zippers and covered buttons. Some of those buttons may not have made it through the years – Squires said when she replaces buttons she tries to do it with pieces from the same era, and always puts that information on the tag.
In these days of $3 tank tops and mass-market jeans, the appeal of vintage has never been stronger, Squires said.
“These are classic styles,” she said. “It’s timeless, and the quality of the fabric and the sewing is just exceptional.”
For those looking to start or add to a vintage collection, Squires advised keeping an open mind. She displayed a 1940s slip that easily could transform into a sundress. In another part of her store, she displays vintage necklaces layered with current pieces – and one from the 1980s.
The clothing isn’t all for wearing. Squires sells aprons for display in kitchens, vintage pieces for use as hair salon decor.
“You can have that little flair,” she said.
And those who do want to want to wear vintage shouldn’t be afraid of modifying it. At her K Street boutique, Squires displays dresses, corsets and other pieces made or augmented by local artist Joanne Miller.
Recently, a woman came in with two pieces of lace – one from her grandmother and one from her grandfather. “Joanne made it into the most beautiful wedding dress,” Squires said.
“Everything today is so disposable,” Squires said. “Vintage clothing pieces are investments.”
Vintage clothing shopping tips
Fashion publishing behemoth Vogue offers a variety of tips for those who are venturing into the world of vintage clothing and accessories. A sampling:
1. If you are new to the world of vintage, consider getting started with an accessory. And if that accessory turns your skin colors, you can try painting the back of it with clear nail polish.
2. When you do find something you like, remember: If it is too small, leave it. (Vogue says: Alas, we are here to inform you – you are not going to lose that weight.”)
3. Clothes that are too big, though, often can be taken in fairly easily.
4. If you decide on a handbag, make sure that the clasps work and the leather is in good shape.
5. Check for holes by holding up the garment to a strong light. Also look for stains – blotches that have been on a blouse for 20 years aren’t going anywhere.